Negative Media Coverage of Both Candidates

By Katie Hooper

Research conducted by Pew’s Research Center into the media coverage of the 2012 election shows that throughout the run up to the election, there has been more negative media coverage than positive of both candidates.

According to Pew, a cross section of 49 mainstream media outlets throughout the last two months has shown that, 19% of stories about Obama had a favourable tone compared to 30 % negative and 51% mixed. Romney has faced a slightly more negative press with only 15% favourable stories, 38% negative, and 47% mixed.

The research has also shown that the presidential candidate debates, especially the first, have been important in shaping media perception of the candidates and have affected the tone of the election press coverage.

A win for Romney in the first election debate (Gallup – 72% for Romney, 20% for Obama) considerably changed the tone of the election press coverage.

In the days prior to the first debate, Romney had been facing heavily negative press with unfavourable stories outstripping positive stories by a six to one ratio. However, the days following the debate showed a marked improvement in the amount of positive stories about Romney, amounting to 32% in the first few days.

For Obama, however, the change in the tone of news coverage swung the other way after a poor showing in which, according to Gallup, even the majority of democrats believed Romney out-performed him (49% Romney and 39% Obama).

In the two weeks between the first and second debate, Romney received mixed media coverage, fairing much better than Obama who was in a critical state with 12% positive and 37% coverage according to Pew.

After the second debate, the amount of positive narrative for the President increased from 12% after the first debate to 17%, and negative coverage decreasing by 3%.

The narrative about Romney became more negative, but did not sink back to the level it was at before the first debate (14% positive, 45% negative).

Social media coverage has differed slightly to mainstream media, being overwhelmingly and relentlessly negative against both candidates and the election in general.

According to Pew, negative sentiment for both candidates has on any given week dominated the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

Despite social media coverage being predominantly negative for both Romney and Obama, Romney has faired worse on all three forms. Between August 27th and October 21st, negative conversations about Romney dominated the Twitter sphere every week, constituting 53%-63% of the overall conversation about him.

In the last week of research (October 15th-21st) Obama’s negative coverage began to dip whilst his positive narrative began to rise.

Surprisingly, Pew’s research discovered that even though the social media coverage increases vastly during important political moments, such as the debates, the tone of the talk did not change with it.

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